I made a late decision to attend the Steelers Monday Night game on Saturday. The atmosphere at Heinz Field was electric. Over 61,000 attended though more Bears fans than anticipated.
TIPS IF YOU DECIDE TO ATTEND A GAME AT LAST-MINUTE
For those that enjoy spontaneity. If you live within 200 miles of Pittsburgh, it’s an easy drive. The key is timing an early arrival. At least four hours before kickoff. Sunday’s traffic is light that early. Even on a Monday afternoon, I was driving against rush hour traffic. The parking garage at Gold Lot one cost $40 but is right at the stadium.
You can grab a bite to eat at a nearby restaurant or join one of the tailgates that are underway even that early. My go to spot for several seasons is Lenny and Cyndie’s Renegade tailgate. WTAE Action News 4 covered them in their news broadcast. All are welcome. They do not charge but do run a charity raffle. Lenny and Cindie put on a good feed for the past 12 seasons. There are other tailgates scattered around the North Shore to choose. Some folks stay out and socialize. Heinz Field pop fireworks about an hour before kickoff as a reminder for fans to come inside the stadium.
The gates open about two hours before kickoff. Well, fed and hydrated, I enter as soon as the gates open. The face value of individual game tickets varies based on three game tiers during the regular season. The lowest is the Gold Tier with Tennessee and Cleveland still on the schedule. Face value ranges from $75 to $298 per ticket. Premier is the highest tier ranging from $105 to $395 for the same sections. The Black Tier is in-between.
Naturally, resellers want to make money, so the actual selling price is based on demand. The face value of the lowest priced ticket available when I decided to go was $80 since the Bears game was Gold Tier. The seller was asking $65 so he was taking a loss since it was close to gameday. However, Ticketmaster charges both the seller and the buyer service and order processing fees that add over 20% to the cost. Still, $83.55 was close to the original face value of the ticket.
VIEWING OPTIONS INSIDE HEINZ FIELD
The view from the “cheap seats” is distant so you may want to bring binoculars. However, many of those seats are under cover, so on a rainy day it could be an advantage.
But what I do, is make my way to one of the two rotundas. These are under cover, and some groups have stood in their spots for years on gamedays. The Yinzer Elvis has his D-Fence sign and attended almost every home game since 2008. Good people and a better vantage people. But get there early to secure a spot at the railing.
For a 1PM game, you can attend a game driving four hours driving distance and make it back home before 9PM. I’ve done it many times, but these days prefer to stay overnight. For later games or if you do not have a designated driver, lodging is pricey. Especially within walking distance of the stadium. You can find more affordable hotels further away that either have a transportation service or just take an Uber or Lyft to save the aggravation of traffic and parking. Or if you are lucky, surf on a friend’s couch.
Anyway, just wanted to share ideas if you ever get the last-minute urge to attend a Steelers game. My experience is that tickets always available and except for huge games, you can buy for near face value if you time it right. On to the game.
FIRST HALF OFFENSE
The Steelers scored a touchdown on their first drive of the game. The Steelers forced to punt three times. But score another touchdown on their only other trip to the red zone in the first half.
STEELERS STRIKE TWICE EARLY
Ray-Ray McCloud returned a punt to the 41-yard line giving the Steelers offense good starting position. Officials penalized Eddie Goldman on the first snap that was a harbinger for the Bears penalty woes in this game. Ben Roethlisberger targeted Chase Claypool with Kindle Vildor in mismatched defense. A 26-yard reception on a third and seven play kept the drive alive. Later, James Washington swept around the left end for 12 yards to the ten-yard line. Najee Harris scored running off the left guard for an early 7-0 lead.
On the Steelers next drive, Robert Quinn sacked Ben after Najee had gained a first down near midfield. The Steelers could not convert from second and 15. So Pressley Harvin punted.
The Steelers got the ball back at the 36 following Cam Heyward’s interception with two minutes to go in the first quarter. Najee Harris ran four straight times for 11 yards to end the quarter. Benny Snell ran five yards to start the second quarter. However, officials flagged Kendrick Green and Angelo Blackson for offsetting personal fouls after the play. So, the yards count. Diontae Johnson catches an 11-yard pass to the nine. On third and goal from the four, the offensive line provides excellent protection. Ben holds the ball for five seconds before finding Pat Freiermuth in the left end zone. Steelers up 14-0. It is almost too easy
OFFENSE GOES TO SLEEP
Then the offense goes to sleep. Kevin Dotson caught holding hurt the next drive. The penalty pushed the ball to the nine-yard line. Najee runs four yards on second and 18. Then Ben throws to Freiermuth for seven yards well short of the sticks. Steelers playing it safe and punt.
The Steelers pinned at the nine again on the next possession. This time it is a Bears punt that Ray-Ray fair caught. Tight end Doug Rader catches his first NFL reception on third and two. But he’s stopped one yard short of a first down. Harvin punts his second dud in a row.
The Steelers start strong and hold a 14-3 lead.
SECOND HALF OFFENSE
Steelers scores another red zone touchdown. Then rely on Chris Boswell to stay in the game.
OFFENSE ANSWERS BEARS THREE WITH SIX OF THEIR OWN
The Steelers open the second half at the 30 following Ray-Ray’s 21-yard return from a short kickoff. Ben throws to Diontae Johnson for a five-yard loss. However, Mario Edwards flagged for roughing the passer. On third and three, Duke Shelley defends a pass intended for James Washington. Harvin punts.
The Bears score and its 14-6 midway through the third quarter. On the Steelers first play. Ben floats a pass toward James Washington. He must race back and makes a catch before the ball hits to ground for a 42-yard gain. Huge play, but Ben’s pass looked weak. Diontae Johnson gains 11 on a Jets sweep. On third and one Najee stopped short by Eddie Goldman and Cassius Marsh. Najee runs again on fourth time and makes it. Chase Claypool run around the right end for 11. On third and eight from the ten, Ben finds Freiermuth again for the touchdown! Chris Boswell misses the extra point so the lead 20-6.
“I DON’T LIKE IT. BUT I’LL TAKE IT.”
The Bears score early in the fourth quarter to trail 20-13. Ben throws deep to Diontae Johnson who draws a defensive pass interference. A 30-yard gain to the Bears 45. Najee takes a short pass and somehow gains nine yards. But from second and one. Steelers cannot convert. Diontae Johnson goes wide left for no gain. Then Najee up the middle for nothing. Boswell kicks a 54-yard field goal. We were nervous since he had missed the extra point. But this looked effortless and it’s 23-13.
Heinz Field resounds with Renegade and Boswell recovers the fumbled kickoff return. With the ball back in Chicago territory looking for back-to-back scores. Roquan Smith offside for a free five yards. Claypool runs left for the first down. Roquan Smith races untouched up the middle sacking Ben. Steelers end up punting instead of scoring.
The Bears scoop up Ray-Ray’s fumbled punt return to tighten the score to 23-20. Fans still noisy but desperately so. The offense must answer to staunch the bleeding away of the lead. Najee patiently runs 13 yards on first down. On third and seven, Ben finds Diontae for ten. Pittsburgh declines another Bears offside penalty. Another third and eight at the Chicago 47. Cassius Marsh sacks Ben and does a round kick with a teammate. Cassius Marsh then approaches the Steelers bench unseen by many groaning fans in the stands, as the punting team enters the field. The referee extends the Steelers drive by penalizing Marsh for taunting. A fan next to me says, “I don’t like it. But I’ll take it.”
BOSWELL ICES BEARS
But another sack creates a third and 16 out of Boswell’s range on the Bears 45. Ben passes short left to Diontae Johnson who gains 11 crucial yards. Back in range, Boswell kicks a 52-yard field goal to make score 26-20. That missed extra point worrisome.
The Bears abuse the defense especially Arthur Maulet to tie the score. The Steelers try to block but penalized for encroachment. The Bears take the lead for the first time of the game. 27-26.
The Steelers have 1:46 to reclaim the lead. Ray-Ray catches a pass and races left out of bounds stopping the clock. Robert Quinn lined up offsides for five more free yards. Diontae Johnson catches a pass for 22 yards. Dan Moore false starts. But then Ben hits Freiermuth who rumbles for 13 yards. 41 seconds to go. Bears have only one timeout left. We didn’t understand but Ben hurries to spike the ball stopping the clock at :40 left to play. The officials huddle briefly. The referee explains that no penalty occurred since the player leaving the field was the eleventh man. We are confused that the Bears would only have ten defenders on the field. Then Ben runs on third and two trying for the first down. He is just short. We in the stands don’t like the spot.
The Bears use up their last timeout to ice Boswell. It does not work though they came close to blocking he kick. But it’s Steelers 29, Bears 27. Just 26 annoying seconds to go.
FIRST HALF DEFENSE
Steelers defense forces four punts, Heyward intercepts a pass. Only allows Bears three points at end of half.
MONSTER PLAY BY CAM HEYWARD
Chicago goes three and out on first possession. Steeler’s offense scored on their first possession to give the defense an early 7-0 lead to defend. Chicago commits two penalties on their next possession. First tackle Jason Peter false starts. The crowd screams even louder. Then an illegal formation negates a first down pass to Allen Robinson. Terrell Edmunds tackled the catch on third and 12 to force another Bears punt. Bears third possession pinned deep again on Harvin’s punt. David Montgomery gets Chicago out of the hole with a 21-yard first down run. Fields scrambles for a first down. Then T.J. Watt catches him from behind for a sack. Fields passes and Heyward snags the ball and wrestles the ball away from a Bear. Monster play by Cam Heyward that the Steelers offense exploit for another score to go up 14-0.
WATT’S SACK PUSHES BEARS OUT OF SCORING RANGE
The defense is felling it. Fields running on third and nine. Minkah Fitzpatrick unloads on him propelling Fields five yards deep into his sideline. The defense forces a three and out.
Harvin shanks a punt, and the Bears start near midfield. Bears look to use the short field to score. Fields hits Cole Kmet for 25 yards to the 27. T.J. Watt steps up and sacks Fields for a ten-yard loss. The Bears get it back plus more on a 15-yard pass. But center Sam Mustipher flagged for being too far downfield. On third and 23, Fields passes incomplete to Kmet. The Bears punt from the 40. Big stand.
FAN NOISE HELPS FORCE A FIELD GOAL
The Bears get the ball with 4:47 left in half. Another poor Harvin punt gets a favorable roll with the ball going out of bounds at the Steelers 36. Joe Schobert and Alex Highsmith stop Montgomery on third and one. The Bears going for it on fourth down. No play since officials flag Cam Heyward for encroachment.
With a fresh set of downs, Fields scrambles out of bounds for six and stops the clock. Taco Charlton tackles Montgomery on third and two. It’s close, but the official measurement shows a first down. Fields throws to middle of field to Kmet for 21 yards. The Bears use a timeout with 57 seconds. The fans made the stadium very loud, my screams among the decibels. On third and seven, tackle Larry Borom false starts. Now it’s third and 12, Fields passes to Jimmy Graham. James Pierre in coverage and its incomplete.
Bears kick a field goal. Steelers up 14-3 with just a kickoff and Ben kneeling left to happen in the half.
SECOND HALF DEFENSE
Defense allows 17 second half points. Special team another seven to almost giveaway this game. But the Steelers withstand the storm.
BEARS PENALTY SAVES FOUR POINTS
The Bears get the ball deep and down 14-3 early in the third quarter. On third and eight, Fields scrambles buying time and connects with Robinson for 17 yards. Montgomery runs another ten. Fields launches a bomb to Marquise Goodwin with Minkah Fitzpatrick trying to dislodge the ball. Mike Tomlin challenges the ruling but replay officials uphold the 50-yard reception. Suddenly, three big plays have the Bears traveling from their seven-yard line to the Steelers 14.
The Bears get a first and goal on a ten-yard pass to Kmet. Heyward and Isiah Buggs combine to stop Montgomery at the one. On second and one, Jimmy Graham scores an apparent touchdown. But officials flagged James Daniels for a low block. Honestly, it looked like the lineman initiated the block between the tackles. But I’ll take it. Instead of seven, the defense keeps the Bears out of the end zones for the next two plays and settle for a field goal.
DEFENSE THEN SPECIAL TEAM MISCUE LEADS TO 14 BEAR POINTS
The Steelers answer with a touchdown and the score is 20-6. Jakeem Grant returning everything out of the end zone. Grant returned this kick from eight yards deep, going 26 yards but just reaching the 18. Montgomery ran 12 yards before Minkah tackled him at the 30. Fields threw to Darren Mooney for 20 yards with Arthur Maulet in coverage. The Bears open the fourth quarter with a 28-yard pass to Jimmy Graham. On the next play, David Montgomery takes a direct snap then hands it to Darrell Mooney who weaves in for the touchdown. It’s a one score game 20-13.
The offense extends the lead to 23-13. Heinz Field rocked with Renegade just before the kickoff. James Pierre destroyed Grant forcing the fumble that Boswell recovered. The offense could not exploit the turnover and the defense was back on the field a few minutes later after the touchback. The defense forces a three and out including another Watt sack. McCloud fumbles the punt return that the Bears scoop and score on. Just like that, it’s 23-20.
FRANTIC THREE MINUTES
Boswell kicks another field goal to make it 26-20 with 2:52 to play. Fields converts a first down on third and one with his legs. The two-minute warning reached with Chicago at their own 45 on third and two. Fields throws 39 yards to Robinson who is in mismatched coverage by Arthur Maulet. Darnell Mooney catches the touchdown pass in the back left of the end zone. The Bears take a 27-26 lead.
The offense answers to regain the lead 29-27 but 26 seconds remain. Luckily, the Bears unwisely burned their final timeout trying to ice Boswell. Terrell Edmunds penalized for illegal contact on second down. Cole Kmet gains 21 yards on two receptions. The clock says four seconds, but the referee directs the timekeeper to add one second to make it five seconds to go. That makes the crowd antsy. Fields back to pass but TJ Watt bats the ball away. With two seconds left. Cairo Santos attempts a 65 yards field goal that falls into the end zone. Steelers win 29-27.
I believe special teams are an underappreciated facet of the game where one big play can shift momentum or even decide the game winner.
I break special teams play into three phases: Kickoffs, punting, and field goals including extra point attempts. Here is an overview of the special teams play during the game:
Coming into this game, 51.6% of Chris Boswell’s kickoffs resulted in touchbacks compared to 62.5% of kickoffs by Cairo Santos. Jakeem Grant came into the game second in the NFL averaging over 25 yards per kick return.
Chris Boswell kicked off seven times. Jakeem Grant returned the first six one from eight yards deep in the end zone. On Grant’s only return that went beyond the 25, James Pierre lit him up forcing a fumble that Boswell recovered. The coverage team played strong. Chicago’s average starting position not including the turnover was their own 21-yard line.
Cairo Santos kicked off six times. Ray-Ray McCloud returned two that were short of the goal line. The first 21 yards to the 30. Ray-Ray’s second return just gained 19 yards to the 25. The Steelers average starting position after kickoffs was just short their own 26-yard line.
Pittsburgh’s coverage team excelled including Derek Watt tackling Grant at the 11 on the Boswell’s second kickoff. The huge play came after Heinz Field played Renegade. Boswell kicked to the two-yard line. Grant returned the ball 32 yards, but Pierre forced the fumble. Big turnover.
|Chris Boswell||7||6||1||0||3||CHI 21|
|Cairo Santos||6||2||4||0||0||PGH 26|
Veteran Pat O’Donnell averaged 46.7 to rookie Pressley Harvin’s 44.8 yards per punt coming into this game.
Pressley Harvin III punted five times averaging 39.2 yards per attempt. Harvin’s first punt from the 50 went 38 yards and fair caught at the 12. Harvin next punted from the 20. Instead of flipping the field, his punt went out of bounds near midfield only traveling 32 yards. His next punt from the 18 short but a fortunate bounce took the ball out of bounds at the Chicago 36 for 46 yards. His fourth punt at the start of the third quarter went 41 yards and downed at the seven-yard line. Finally, his last punt came close but went into the end zone for a touchback. Overall Harvin netted 35.2 yards a punt.
Pat O’Donnell also punted five times averaging 46.8 yards per punt. Ray-Ray returned the first three punts. He fair caught the fourth punt. O’Donnell punted once in the second half. The ball traveled 57 yards. McCloud returned the ball nine yards and lost control of the ball as he hit the ground. The Bears scooped up the ball and scored a touchdown which pulled them within three 23-20. Gillan netted 41.2 yards per punt. Officials reviewed the play and upheld the score.
Inexcusable. Ray-Ray must secure the ball instead of fighting for extra inches. A turning point that put the Bears right back into the game.
FIELD GOALS and EXTRA POINTS
Chris Boswell missed one extra point attempt. But he coolly kicked three field goals. The Bears tried to ice Boswell on his final attempt by using their final timeout. Instead, Boswell iced the Bears who could have used the timeout in the final 26 seconds.
Cairo Santos was perfect until his final longshot 65-yard field goal attempt fell short to secure the Steelers victory.
|FGs and PATs||XPM||XPA||FGM||FGA||Long||2PTM||2PTA|
DAVE BRYAN’S VICTORY PUNCH LIST
Dave Bryan provided five keys for a Steelers victory. Here is how the Steelers performed them:
- Limit the damage QB Justin Fields does rushing. Fields carried the ball eight times for just 45 yards. But six of eight runs successful for 75% success rate. Mission failure.
- Target CB Kindle Vildor. Vildor gave up 26-yard pass to Claypool early in game. Defensive pass interference declined on second TD to Freiermuth. Mission accomplished.
- Steelers build on run success rate. Bears gave up 54% successful runs coming into game. Najee Harris run success rate 41% with one touchdown. Mission failure.
- Hold WR Allen Robinson to less than 100 receiving yards. Robinson caught four passes for 68 yards and no touchdowns. Mission accomplished.
- Avoid beating yourself with turnovers and costly penalties. Ray-Ray McCloud fumbled punt returned that Bears returned for touchdown. Mission failure.
Steelers win despite only achieving two of five keys. Missing so many keys will not work against stronger teams.
YOUR HOT TAKES DURING THE GAME
FIRST HALF READER COMMENTS
Yet another slow start for Steelers Thank you, Ross McCorkle, for keeping us up to date on the game’s first half Live Update and Discussion Thread.
Steelers Depot respondents did not meet the standard. Only 718 first half comments. The lowest amount this season. We only met the standard in weeks one and three. Ironically, the top comment of the game was from me: “Ok People. I’m at the game again. We got to help the Steelers and get over the 1000 comment standard in the first half. Synchronicity!” Yoi!
Stone Age Tone disrupted his circadian rhythm to watch the game live. “Middle of the night in England, but we’re UP for this one. GO STEELERS !!!”
The Steelers made us feel comfortable in the first half. Too much so? Many shared the same sentiment as Triple Lindy. “Gee, wouldn’t it be nice if, say, by the start of the 4th quarter the Steelers are comfortably ahead…and we get to see MASON play a few series?!”
Steelers up 14-3. We can all relax. Right?
SECOND HALF READER COMMENTS
The second half included some bizarre officiating, a lost lead, a comeback, and a final desperation play. All stimulated Depot respondents into 1630 comments during the second half live discussion.
“Who’s 55?” RJMcReady wanted to know. The Steelers selected Devin Bush tenth overall in the 2019 NFL draft. Bush collected three tackles and disrupted one pass. By contrast, Roquan Smith, the eighth overall selection in 2018, tackled 12 including dropping Najee Harris twice for a loss. Steelers D said it. “Man, I wish we had Roquan.”
Triple Lindy saw the bright side of a stalled Steelers fourth quarter drive. “Well, that was a win…. of sorts…. we chewed up close to 4 minutes of clock…”
FranchisePunter offered a solution to the Steelers coverage woes as Chicago drove down the field. “Hide Maulettes (Arthur Maulet) helmet.”
Mateo K predicted the negative reaction from a less than satisfying victory. “Another game winning drive for Ben. Haters hate on.” Jack Brown echoed concerns about the Steelers tough second half schedule. “Party is over after next week. The crippled teams will be off the schedule.”
Ddrews 1914 shared the concern of many Steelers Nation citizens. “Love my Steelers but man we got some issues.”
However, Steely McBeam’s “best comment” of the half put the Steelers game into context. “The bills lost to the jaguars, Brady lost, Bengals got blown out, the cowboys got demolished and the rams went down. I’ll chalk this one up to a weird NFL week.”
Pittsburgh won the game but some officiating such as the low block and taunting call helped them. Even with that help, self-inflicted wounds especially the fumbled punt made the game closer than needed.
Ben Roethlisberger is a Pittsburgh treasure. But his arm clearly off from even earlier in the season. James Washington had to race and make a diving catch instead of catching a pass in stride for a touchdown. Najee ran about 40% successful runs. But Chicago stopped too many third and one plays. They are supposed to be a bad run defense.
Cam Heyward and T.J Watt made huge plays. But then poor pass defense allowed Jason Fields and the Bears to gain a fourth quarter lead.
Chris Boswell despite the missed extra point and the kick coverage team played outstandingly. James Pierre forcing a fumble on a fourth quarter kickoff with Boswell’s recovery huge. Yet Ray-Ray McCloud’s fumbled punt return almost undid it all.
My conclusion is the Steelers are a mediocre team. For every highlight on offense, defense, or special teams, it can be offset by a lowlight. Pittsburgh can beat any team in the league, but just as capable to losing to any team. I’m not upset or angry at how close this game ended. I’m relieved that Pittsburgh won.
Regardless of how underwhelming the Steelers 29-27 victory over the Bears was in your perspective. NFL statisticians recording the final score as a win in the record books. On to the Detroit Lions.
YOUR MUSIC SELECTION
I always like to offer a music selection. The Steelers may or may not beat the Detroit Lions. I know what I’m going to do. Wherever I am, I’ll be cheering the Steelers on like a mad man. But what really matter is what are the Steelers going to do? Here is What You Going to Do? By the Eb Davis Blues Band